If ever a gig deserved to be called a homecoming, it would be tonight. After upping sticks to Sweden, two-time Choice Prize winner Jape make a sold-out return to Dublin with their finest, most consistent record to date (review here).
‘This Chemical Sea’ is an album that wasn’t so much written as it was crafted. You can feel the craftsmanship through each of the intricately layered tracks. So delivering this album in a live setting was always going to be a challenge. Tonight, Jape take the live form of Richie Egan flanked by two drummers. On first glance, both members appear to be drummers but they’re armed with enough extra electronic pads, synths and other tech goodies that, to limit their description to such tight parameters would be to do them a disservice.
The set is front-loaded with tracks from his latest release but sadly they don’t go down nearly as well as they deserve to. Breath of Life gets off to an underwhelming start and Absolutely Animals lacks the directness it demands. The road-tested I Was a Man hits home with the intended punchiness. Songs like the jittery Seance of Light and the shuffling The Heart’s Desire are carefully considered tunes you can dance to that are also bursting to the brim with clever, nuanced ideas.
We know that Jape have a bag full of tunes, the crowd seem up for it, and the Academy’s recent lighting upgrade means the venue has never looked slicker (see Aaron Corr’s gorgeous snaps below). So why doesn’t it click? Well Egan sways between introspective musician and rave ringleader. The musician part, well we knew a long time ago that he has that locked down. So all that’s missing is that last little bit of self assurance that he can tell the crowd what to do. Floating gets a superb groove-based dance makeover but throughout the whole song it seems like everyone is waiting on a cue from Egan that doesn’t arrive.
As he says in Metamorphosis, “I can tell you that your focus shifts”. Jape are now in a state of metamorphosis. As the tour goes on and they grow more comfortable in this new skin, things will continue to improve. Until then, they’re just floating.